The global trend looming way before the COVID-19 crisis emerged last December was that the world is currently in a deceleration phase in economic growth whilst the vast majority wants to accelerate. But this majority is in fact disconnected from reality. As a lot of researchers put it, we are in the middle of a true global transition cycle and the recent crisis has only been an accelerator of what was already underway.
From a geopolitical point of view, we observe a complex global system with various interests that have been so intertwinned over the past decades that it directly resulted in new conflicts as well as new risks. At the same time, the diplomatic scene became more confused due to new actors joining the game in the late 1990s and new alliances formed during the last decade up until very recently. Hence, what prevailed yesterday doesn’t apply today anymore. While international relations’ networks are far more difficult to understand, conflicts are also changing of nature and hybrid warfare, a military strategy that employs military force combined with non-military means and cyberwar, is part of this new realm. This new threat pushes for a strong need of controlling field operations more closely, especially at the borders and also to provide specified trainings for the security and military forces. Meanwhile, violent extremism and terrorism continue being serious dangers. Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and NBC programs in general, some treaties negotiated in the late 70s are currently being questioned or even cancelled, opening the door to uncertain times. In addition, we are seeing several ongoing protracted conflicts, like Armenia-Azerbaijan that escalated last July seriously jeopardizing a fragile equilibrium in the entire South-Caucasus area. The equation is even more complicated to solve in torn-war regions where power had been confiscated by decades of frustrations, deprivations and conflicts and where winning the hearts and minds is of paramount importance in order to provide a fair, well-adapted conflict resolution and reconstruction plan.
Thus in this explosive context the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have never been more needed to help shape a world more centered on Humanity, Justice and Education for All. Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, ” it provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.”
This collective consciousness emerges in a host of different ways and highlights that there is an urgency, an urgency for better food, an urgency to have more educated people, an urgency to bring prosperity and to establish a stable and sustainable Peace. Furthermore, in the whole of society a movement tends to appear and is based on investing in local economies via local hiring frameworks. Hence, investing in the ‘neighborhood’ helps build, inspire and power other ways of consuming, living and to a certain extent, thinking the world. According to Rob Hopkins, a famous lecturer and the initiator of the Movement Cities in Transition: “Imagination is taking power (…) you can start small but visible “. Indeed, he is the champion of collective imagination and stands for a large citizen movement aiming at bringing new answers to a world in transition. For instance, at the center of this thinking lies the very necessity to adapt to new energies as oil will not be the sole provider in the near future. Among others, Mr Hopkins created the idea of urban agriculture with several successful projects such as the well-known Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin.
What’s currently at stake is triple: on a geopolitical level we are facing new threats and new challenges combined to those we already know, like epidemics, cyberwars and major catastrophies. Moreover, natural resources tend to lessen and water is precious for Southern continents that are regularly confronting its scarcity, giving way to regional tensions and leading to claims for territories. At the individual level, collective consciousness to combat all forms of injustice and fight for human rights is becoming the new normal. Finally, biodiversity is endangered and climate change force us to think things through in order to provide solutions for a better future. Actually, the new era we are living in demands creative minds and open eyes to be able to cope with a fast-evolving globalized world and analyze complex challenges to build a secure and better place for everyone.
Anne Marrillet holds a Master in History as well as a Master in European Studies from the European Institute of the University of Geneva. After working as Project Officer at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, she focuses on International Security and Human Rights and is also strongly interested in inter-disciplinary topics.